At 26, my cousin, Mark, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We were the same age at the time, and the news was devastating. I watched for three years as he bravely faced painful treatments only to succumb to the disease three years later. I learned my first valuable lesson about the tenuous nature of life. It can be swept away as fast as a hurricane can wipe out a coastal town, leaving those who remain numb and in disbelief. Only a month before, my cousin had served as a pallbearer at my beloved grandfather’s funeral; now he was gone.
Both deaths, within a month of each other, knocked me off of my feet. I felt disoriented and distracted. I also felt a strong sense that life races by, leaving us only with our experiences. For the first time, I remember deliberately pondering what mattered to me most. Before the passing of my grandfather and cousin, I robotically moved through the motions of life, doing what was expected of a young woman my age – finish college, get a job, get married, have children. However, I’d never really thought about what was important to me.
Family Is My Priority
Family often becomes a priority after a loss. I was pregnant with my daughter and made a tough financial decision to stay home with her and eventually my son. Today, I wouldn’t take that time back for all of the money in the world. I made a decision that mattered to me.
It’s remarkable how death keeps life in perspective.
I tried diligently not to be bothered by small, daily annoyances and remember what is truly important. As a worn out mother of a toddler and infant, I was not always successful, but the idea was always in the back of my mind. Every now and then, I get lulled back to sleep, yet life has a way of shaking me awake. 20 years later, I continue to go after the things that matter most to me. In the past several years, I’ve trained in mindfulness; traveled; become a published writer; and have continued to play the sports that I love.
What matters most is unique to each individual and may change over time. It is up to us to discover what that is. Once we do, we would be wise to pursue it with passion, for our future is not promised nor guaranteed. I will never forget that valuable lesson I learned in my twenties and often think about my cousin.